THE BEACH IN ROMANTIC COMEDIES
Within romantic comedy, the setting of the beach has come to function as a highly potent and privileged setting, evolving into a generic ‘magic space’ that sanctions and protects those desiring love, while allowing for certain forms of speech involving intimacy and the (sexual) self that cannot be uttered elsewhere.
Time and again, the sea functions as an alternative, liberating space away from the intellectualism and emotional cynicism of the modern city, constituting an arena where characters can find intimacy and give themselves over to love in ways impossible elsewhere.
The sea also suggests the elusiveness of everlasting love. The meaning of the sea in romantic comedy is not entirely stable. It is used to endorse romantic notions about ‘authentic’ love and natural ‘soulmates’. But that’s not all: a certain paradox is at play in the genre’s use of the shoreline, since the liminal space of the sea/beach stands simultaneously both for enduring natural wonder that will outlast each of us, and the very essence of evanescence. Always changing, never fixed, inescapably different from one day to the next, it is a reminder of the capriciousness of love and life, an expressive signifier which by its very nature reminds us of the transience of all things.
— notes from the abstract of Sea of love: place, desire and the beaches of romantic comedy by Deborah Jermyn; Janet McCabe
In the womb we swim in salty water, sprouting residual fins and tails and rudimentary gills, turning in our little oceans, queer beasts that might yet become whales or fish or humans. We first sense the world through the fluid of our mother’s belly; we hear through the sea inside her. We speak of bodies of water, Herman Melville wrote of “the times of dreamy quietude, when beholding the tranquil beauty and brilliancy of the ocean’s skin”.
THE BEACH IN LOVE TRAGEDIES
In case you hadn’t heard, Nicholas Sparks does not like his masterful works of art to be labelled ‘chick-lit’; he prefers the term ‘love tragedy’.
The symbolic function of the beach in a love tragedy seems to be exactly the same as it is in a romantic comedy, with emphasis on the ephemeral nature of everything, including sublime happiness.
THE BEACH AS SETTING IN GOTHIC FICTION
In a young country like New Zealand there are no medieval castles. However, there is always the beach. The beaches of NZ have a haunted history which takes the place of Europe’s castles and dungeons.